Geography lesson for transport office

Andy Burnham
Andy Burnham

LEIGH MP Andy Burnham has blasted out-of-touch Government ministers for not knowing which county Leigh is in.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Health launched his attack after a letter from the Department for Transport stated that building a new railway line would be a matter for Lancashire County Council.

The response, signed by Minister for State Simon Burns MP, a Conservative representing Chelmsford in Essex, was issued after Mr Burnham enquired on behalf of a constituent whether any of the money from the Government’s High Level Output Specification (HLOS) fund for rail improvements could be directed towards re-opening Leigh’s railway line or building a new station in the town.

In addition to not realising Leigh transport issues come under Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), Mr Burns’ reply dealt a severe blow to the campaign to re-connect Leigh to the national railway network, stating that priority as to improve the existing facilities by reducing overcrowding, cutting journey times and improving efficiency.

Mr Burnham said he was angered both by the obvious inaccuracy in Mr Burns’ letter and also by the contents, saying Westminster could not simply dismiss public transport issues as a purely local problem.

Mr Burnham said: “For a Government department to be sending that letter out is pretty disgraceful. This just shows what we are up against, as the Department for Transport and a Tory minister have no idea where Leigh is on the map, but it is shocking nonetheless to see it in black and white.

“The money is all about improving things for existing customers, not opening up the network to other people, which is unfair to places like Leigh. Public money should be going to those areas not adequately served.

“The Government cannot just wash its hands of this as it was central government which closed our railway line. Congestion in the area, and particularly on the East Lancs road, is getting worse with every year that passes.

“It seems the Department for Transport has forgotten about Leigh, but I am going to be a thorn in their side until they accept the town’s transport and railway needs.”